The Right Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham – gave the sermon at the Sung Eucharist in Durham Cathedral on Easter Day (Sunday 27th March 2016). In his sermon he reflected on the darkness and light in our lives, commenting on the atrocities seen in Belgium earlier in Holy Week, two weeks ago on the Ivory Coast in Africa and the darkness under other conflicts around the world – asking the question ‘When will it end’?
He went on to explore other forms of darkness, of hunger, famine and closer to home depression and poverty and comments: “… it is not all darkness, there is much love, delight and joy around in our world too.”
His comments lead to a discussion on the the darkness of Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross and the Easter Light – the light in the darkness as he is resurrected. Bishop Paul asks: “Where do we look for light in the darkness? Whether this be the personal darkness of depression, sorrow and grief, uncertainty and lack of hope or the wider darkness of a world in all its turmoil, violence and need?
“The risen Jesus is still the hope, the light of the world. He speaks to us of God’s kingdom and reign. He shows us that death is defeated in him.”
EASTER DAY – 11.15 Communion
Darkness appears to abound.
The darkness of terrorism seen this week in Belgium and Baghdad; 2 weeks ago it was Ivory Coast.
There is the darkness of under conflict in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Burundi and many more nations. When will it end? And when it does where will such conflicts break out anew?
There is the darkness of hunger and famine. These are not in our headlines but across the world today and every day millions are hungry; crops are failing; young children are dying from preventable diseases. Women are dying in child birth. There is darkness.
Closer to home there are those who live in the darkness of depression; more young men commit suicide than any other group; why? There is the darkness of living with worklessness; of struggling to make ends meet because the benefits have arrived late, or been cut; or because the wages are just too low. For too many the darkness that can come with poverty is a reality.
Of course it is not all dark. There is much love, delight, and joy around in our world too. This exists often amongst those who have very little, because sometimes here there is greater joy in simply living, and in family and community relationships than is found in those who are well off but lack friends, their family is broken and there is no inner peace.
There is light, and there is darkness.
DISCIPLES AND DARKNESS
For Jesus’ disciples there was much darkness. There was the darkness of betrayal, and of denial. There was the darkness of Jesus’ death, illustrated graphically and literally by the darkness that fell over Jerusalem as Jesus hung on the cross.
There was the darkness of dreams and hopes being shattered and ended.
This whole darkness was typified in Mary Magdalene. She had found in Jesus freedom from the bondage of darkness that had surrounded her life. In the past couple of years as she had followed Jesus light had shone into her; freedom had been found. She had been welcomed into Jesus’ community and found that she belonged and mattered. This is the transformation Jesus brought.
Yet now he was dead; darkness had descended. and as she goes to the tomb with the other women she finds that she is even denied the final touches of love; she cannot anoint the body for the body is gone.
The light of the sun might be beginning to appear in the Jerusalem sky but for Mary it all seems very dark.
Then with the simple calling of her name the risen Jesus blasts the dark away. Like a candle being lit in a room that was pitch dark, light dawns.
In this moment hope is renewed and restored. Indeed it is magnified from anything that she had experienced before for now death itself is defeated. The light of life floods in. It is confusing as well as enlightening because it is simply way beyond anything she had anticipated. Her friend, her teacher, her Lord is here, risen, alive.
Of course she wants to worship; she wants to hold onto him so that he will not go away. He sends her to the disciples to tell them the news. He assures her that he is not going away. So she goes and tells them. They struggle with the news. It takes further events. E fore they really get that Mary is telling them the truth; the Lord is truly risen.
LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
Where do we look for light in the darkness? Whether this be the personal darkness of depression, sorrow and grief, uncertainty and lack of hope or the wider darkness of a world in all its turmoil, violence and need?
The risen Jesus is still the hope, the light of the world. He speaks to us of God’s kingdom and reign. He shows us that death is defeated in him.
As his followers we are to be the bringers of hope and light in every way we can. We are to feed the hungry, get clean water to the thirsty, provide shelter to the homeless, welcome to the stranger. We are to be those who pursue peace and reconciliation where there is conflict. We are to be those who seek to bring justice and freedom to those who are oppressed and suffering.
The very heart of all this is the risen Jesus. Without his death on the cross and his being raised from the death the core of any such peace and justice is missing.
Like Mary we have to keep announcing to the world – ‘The Lord is risen.’ We may not be believed or heard. We may be told it is all idle tales, or delusion, but like Mary Magdalene we know it is true. The darkness has been blasted away in the light of Jesus, the risen one.